A month ago, I mailed the Red Hot Chili Peppers a letter, asking them not to perform in Israel. The campaign, of course, is much broader than myself; The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a Lebanese group of BDS activists, the US Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), and my own group BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within have all made statements and called for action. International social media campaigns are spreading [1, 2], the petition based on my letter is constantly growing in signatures from all around the globe, and even Macy Gray (who’s been reaching some new conclusions) twitted a little word of support. All this noise isn’t going by unnoticed by the Israeli government, media, and corporate elite, and though it took them a while, they are beginning to take action.
Music Industry Fat Cats Profiteering off of Military Occupation: An Economic-Ideological Cycle
A very telling article was published by Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) in JewishJournal.com. The article is basically a summation of a meeting that was initiated by CCFP and attended by Los Angeles’ Consul General of Israel, David Siegel, and a group of 30 music executives, talent agents and entertainment lawyers. “Together,” the article boasts, “the group represents the likes of Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, Aerosmith, Jennifer Lopez and Justin Timberlake — to name a few.”
Via the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles, we’ve got quite a few heavyweight artists in bed with the Israeli government. But who are Creative Community for Peace? While their website is reluctant to name names, the article proudly names the main speakers of the event; David Renzer, the former Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group (who left in order to “explore other personal and professional activities” and “devote more time to philanthropic endeavors”) and the aforementioned Los Angeles’ Consul General of Israel, David Siegel. Others mentioned are Steve Schnur, worldwide head of music for Electronic Arts (EA) video games and active culturewasher and xenophobic propagandist with a remote-control-colonialist streak. Ran Geffen-Lifshitz, CEO of the Tel Aviv based Media Men Group which has produced ads for an endless array of war profiteering Israeli corporations, and Doug Frank, former president of music operations for Warner Bros. Pictures and yet another active member of the Jewish Federation of LA.
Now that we have the answer to “who?”, let’s look at “what?”. The article states clearly in the second paragraph:
…a nonprofit seeking to counter artist boycotts of Israel.
But the more interesting part is much further down, where who and what come together in Zionist familial and organizational monetary ties:
CCFP first germinated in the summer of 2010 on a Master Class trip to Israel organized by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles… They also received material support from the pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs (whose co-founder Esther Renzer is David Renzer’s wife) and a $50,000 start-up grant from The Jewish Federation.
At this point I doubt anybody needs an introduction to StandWithUs or The Jewish Federation. I’ll just remind everyone that The Federation funds the Jewish Agency which in turns funds StandWithUs projects. Today, the Jewish Agency is responsible for elaborate state propaganda schemes, on behalf of the state of Israel, which in turn both funds it and exempts it from tax. You can read all about its history which holds some deep dark secrets of direct involvement in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and its settler colonization efforts, which continue to this day.
In an incestuous dance of capitalism and colonialism, music industry fat cats have created a nonprofit organization, funded and supported by the state, to counter attempts to run their shows out of town, and all in the context of ideological legitimization of Israel’s policies of military occupation and apartheid. In return, the state of Israel has turned boycotts that “harm the state of Israel” to a “civil wrong” with the implication of enabling corporations to sue individuals, for boycotting them on moral grounds, with no need of proof of damages. So, who profits from the occupation?
Grassroots of the Rich and Famous
“It’s a grassroots approach, but at a high level” ~ Steve Schnur
I’m sure the last paragraph won’t sit comfortably with the founders of Creative Community for Peace. After all, they are but mere creators of “films, and television programs–and their fans”, so once again, the burden of proof is on me (and attempting to prove is cause for a law suite). Luckily for me, I stumbled across a few articles and aside from the financial information, it also gave me an in depth look into CCFP’s plans, strategies, and ideologies:
The apartheidistic basics of Brand Israel are there:
- Siegel went on to list some of Israel’s accomplishments in science, technology and the arts.
- “It’s all a question of image,” Siegel agreed. For many in the younger generation, being associated with the anti-Israel cause can be “way more cool… “We need to make Israel cool,” Atar Dekel, cultural attache for the Israeli Consulate, concluded.”
And if you still aren’t satisfied as to “why cultural boycott?”:
Israel is no stranger to challenges, both at home and abroad. But at a time when its image as a vibrant, democratic society is constantly threatened, the presence of world-class entertainers, many of whom have large, impressionable audiences, can help make life there seem, and feel, more normal… CCFP was created to demonstrate to artists that Israel is a decent place.
Some recent action is aimed at social media:
“There should be a global campaign! I don’t see it. I don’t see counter-PR happening on YouTube… It takes a network to fight a network. You don’t see Abbas making these videos; you see Westerners doing it. It’s much better to do this at the local level,” he said, prodding his audience with eye contact. “You don’t want government bureaucrats doing this; believe me, I’ve seen those videos”…Talk turned to producing a pro-Israel promotional video.
And their basic mode of operations was laid out in these two aforementioned articles:
They decided they could use their connections to reach out to artists who were planning to perform in Israel… Geffen-Lifshitz, who began providing a monthly list of artists scheduled to perform in Israel. From that, they wrote a letter, and sometimes made a phone call, to thank each artist for planning to go to Israel. [JewishJournal.com]
…the organization’s Israel point man, Ran Geffen-Lifshitz, CEO of Media Men Group, the country’s largest music publishing company.
“Every month, we receive a report from Ran’s team in Israel on the various artists who have announced they’re coming to Israel,” Renzer said last week during a visit to Israel.
“We then ask our advisory board whether anyone has a special relationship with the artist or his management, and often the answer is yes. So, they’re hearing not from an anonymous fan, but from a high-level person in the entertainment industry.”
The artist receives a phone call or letter congratulating them on his decision to perform in Israel and making him aware of the impending boycott efforts. [21c Israelity Blog]
Most recently, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are on CCFP’s mind, and a campaign has already begun on the CCFP Facebook page and a page specifically made to counter our own campaign of “Anti-Peace, Anti-Dialogue harassment”. The main strategy is posting RHCP videos and encouraging fans to post comments of peace, love and undying fandom.
Unfortunately for the leaders of this creative community for peace, some of their sweetest members turn ugly when they think nobody’s watching:
Israel 2012: Public Relations for a Dormant Volcano
I’ve already mentioned the legal price over our heads, and illustrated the force and the amounts of money we’re facing. In the last paragraph I’ve already touched slightly on an additional aspect, which is both personal and political, and I’d like to zero in on that.
Israeli mainstream media has begun calling us for interviews about our call to the RHCP. I have personally chosen to decline at this point, because what I have to say has been published to the audience I was aiming for. However the media will write about this, whether I do an interview or not. The first article in Israeli MSM about the issue [Hebrew] has already been published, and the language used gives me good indication that there’s no real point in speaking with the hostile media at this time [translation by me]:
Almost every big artist that comes to perform in Israel is under an attack of boycotters and anti-Israeli dissenters and pro-Palestinians that call him to cancel his arrival in the country. But this time it seems that the attack on the Red Hot Chili Peppers is of the most severe.
As usual, I’d just like to note the use of language and encourage people to read the letters, and decide for themselves whether the word “attack” (or CCFP’s “harass”) is descriptive of the campaigns. The article continues with its telling point of view, when it talks of BDS activists who are citizens of Israel:
At the forefront of the struggle stand those who call themselves “Israeli citizens”.
I guess my blue-covered ID card is not cold hard fact, but a campaigning angle that must be questioned at all times. Speaking of me, my now delegalized action of writing a letter, asking the RHCP to cancel their performance, has garnered a short paragraph of its own, in this article:
“A lady called Tali Shapiro, who defines herself “citizen of Tel Aviv, in Occupied Palestine”, has surpassed herself and has already signed thousands of [internet] surfers on a petition to cancel the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert, claiming that this is a “petition for human rights”.”
As a result of this subtly snide article, which not only included a link to the petition, but also linked directly to my user on Change.org, I received the above less restrained message, along with a few others:
Neither the writer of this article, nor the writers of these messages are the fringe of the Israeli public. I often get messages like this on the social media, and more often than not, it’s a young person, into contemporary music, with a chip on their shoulder about this or that campaign that I’m participating in. The media never seems to acknowledge the message, and interviews often seem like a cold war, which in turn are passed on to the public with no self reflection or political analysis (because really, when you think of it, what does music have to do with politics?!).
Creative Community for Peace aren’t immune to Zionist ideology, either, and they also pass on this subdued pro-colonization party line with a dormant volcanic center. In their campaign they may use the language of “peace”, “building bridges with music” which is “beyond politics”, but in their promotional article in the JewishJournal they are quoted using the self-victimizing and xenophobic language of the state of Israel’s propaganda (i.e “antisemitism”, “only democracy in the Middle East” “Israel’s right to exist”). Very slowly, Israel is learning that it can’t PR its way way out of responsibility for the atrocities it’s wreaking on the lives of Palestinians. PR can’t erase the violence that becomes inherent in a society that’s biggest achievement is the erasure of another society.